Bullard Elementary School in Kennesaw collected over 9,000 cans of food over a five week period leading up to Thanksgiving, said Diana Haigh, community outreach chair for Bullard’s Parent Teacher Student Association. The school was able to out-collect Acworth Intermediate, McCall Primary and Pitner Elementary in Acworth and Kennesaw Elementary, Lewis Elementary and North Cobb Christian School in Kennesaw during the Oct. 15-Nov. 16 contest.
The key was getting kids to bring cans in during the entire collection period, Haigh said, instead of having them drop off cans once and be done with it.
“We decided to come up with a bunch of fun ways to keep kids bringing them in,” she said.
The school offered pieces of candy in exchange for a can and allowing students to have a “hat day,” when headgear is usually prohibited at school, Haigh said. One of the more popular contests was a “boys versus girls” challenge, in which boys brought in more cans.
With around 1,000 students at Bullard, Haigh said the kids brought in nearly 10 cans apiece. Students heard lessons about what a difference their donations could make.
“We try to give them an idea how many people they are feeding,” she said.
The Rev. Marlon Longacre, associate pastor at Piedmont Church, said the “Freedom Challenge” among north Cobb elementary schools developed from his memories of a childhood canned food drive. The name for the event came from Freedom Church in Kennesaw, which partnered with Piedmont, NorthStar Church in Kennesaw and the city of Acworth on the food drive.
“It’s just amazing to see the schools’ participation,” Longacre said. “It just further shows why Acworth and Kennesaw are the most giving communities in the county.”
The schools brought canned goods to five food pantries in Cobb — MUST Ministries, Mars Hill Presbyterian Church, Acworth United Methodist Church, Redemption Baptist Church and Tackle Hunger.
Haigh said Bullard was able to make a particularly large difference at Acworth UMC, which was nearly out of food in its food pantry. Students contributed more than 1,000 canned goods.
“We filled the shelves,” she said.
Melissa Tyler, who helped Haigh with the canned food drive at Bullard, said much of the food that was brought in will stay in the neighborhoods where it was collected.
“Some people might say that Bullard is in a high-income area, but we have some little pockets in our area that have people in need,” she said. “We wanted the kids to have something to do that was practical.”